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9 Best Document Management Systems For Law Firms In 2021

 

An average lawyer collects 2.5 hours of billable time per day. Do you know what the remaining 6 hours represent? An opportunity to improve efficiency and stay ahead of the competition.

Automating legal administrative and manual labour is the key for today’s law firms to cut expenses and build an efficient, innovative and client-centric practice.

In this article, we take a practical look at what a legal document management system (DMS) is, why law firms should use it, what types of document management systems for law firms are presented on the market, and what to pay attention to when choosing the best option for your law firm.

What is a legal document management system?

Legal document management system is a system designed to meet unique challenges of law firm document management, e.g. systemizing and searching information and documents by case and client structures, legal data safety standards, etc.

But firstly, what’s the difference between legal and general document management systems (DMS)?

General document management systems, such as Confluence and Evernote usually provide a thorough toolkit to store, find, organize and manage your documents (e.g. document storage, tagging, version management, full-text search, email management, etc.)

Whereas a legal document management system addresses law firm’s needs: offers very specific operational and compliance features, combines case management with document management or provides an end-to-end contract lifecycle management.

Document management systems with contract lifecycle management cover most of any law firm’s organisational needs:

  • Document management — all contracts and documentation are stored in a central cloud-based repository for easy access. 
  • Central knowledge management — it gives you a single source of truth and a 360° analytical overview of the contract and document management.
  • User management — assign different roles and rights to account managers, legal engineers, drafters, clients, etc. 
  • Collaboration and negotiation management — forget exchanging versions over email. Use a shared workspace to edit, recommend changes, and comment on the documents. The system automatically tracks changes and version history. 
  • Styles and formatting management — automatically keep your documents consistent and harmonized throughout the organization. 
  • Internal processes automation — cut contract cycle time and close deals faster with automated workflows. Reduce time spent on reviewing and managing documents with automated templates and clause library. 
  • Customer relationship management — make customer collaboration faster, safer and more efficient with client-facing services like white-label client portal. 
  • Post-execution management — catch important deadlines with reminders, keep track of and handle renewals, track and monitor important metrics with automated reporting. 
  • Work-load management — keep track of firm-wide workload and easily delegate work to other team members. 

 

What types of document management systems for law firms should you know?

 

There are many different types of legal document management systems available on the market with capabilities ranging from basic document management to full contract lifecycle management and advanced automation.

To clear things up a bit, here’s a quick overview.

 

What is not a document management system?

 

It’s the managing part that separates basic document storage solutions from a document management system.

For example, these are commonly used generic storage solutions that are not document management systems:

  • Google Workspace — a widely used collection of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products by Google.
  • Sharepoint — a file management system by Microsoft, for calendars, messaging tools, project management tools, company’s intranet, cloud storage service, and even a generic content management system. 

Even though widely used, such tools don’t offer actual document management capabilities, not to mention legal capabilities. You might even be able to add minor automation to the system but that doesn’t make it a document management system. They also lack industry standard security features and using them for sensitive materials can be a liability risk. 

 

What is a generic document management system?

 

Generic document management systems do just that — help you manage documents but not much more.

Sample document management solutions:

  • Rubex by eFileCabinet — document management software that could be used by lawyers and office staff to digitize, manage and access critical data. They describe themselves as a digital filing cabinet with advanced security and cloud-based accessibility.
  • M-files — a content management tool that helps users organize, manage and track documents and information. It integrates with Outlook, Gmail and Sharepoint, to speed up day-to-day operations.

 

What is an advanced document management system for law firms?

 

An advanced document management system is software with other legal capabilities included such as contract lifecycle management (CLM) or contract automation. They offer well-rounded functionality and should ideally be the one and only tool the law firm needs.

The advanced functionalities of a document management system mean:

  • DMS with document automation — you can generate, draft and assemble legal documents, as well as manage and store them in the same system. Examples: HotDocs, Law Cloud

👉 Read more: Document Generation Software: Our Top 15 Picks for 2021

  • DMS with practice management — on top of editing, storing and organizing documents, this type of systems offer legal-specific business management tools that might include time and expense tracking, automated legal deadline tracking, client billing and collaboration features, and full practice overview. Examples: Clio, Rocket Matter 
  • DMS with end-to-end contract lifecycle management and contract automation — they go way beyond just storing and managing documents and truly automate the entire contract process flow. Contract lifecycle management systems cover most or all of your document management routines from drafting and workflows, to approvals, client collaboration, eSignatures, and reporting. Examples: iManage, Avokaado, Legito

Why should law firms use a document management system?

Although all businesses can greatly benefit from using a document management system, particular law firm document management challenges can only be solved by a legal document management system. When other companies can start off with a cost-effective combination of shared cloud-based file storage and emails, it can compromise attorney-client confidentiality and is out of the question for a law firm. 

Almost all law firms face a large volume of documents and literal paperwork, as well as various confidentiality and privacy regulations that determine the way these documents should be processed, accessed and stored. 

A document management software for law firms not only helps stay on top of storing and organizing the documents, but also automatically keeps track of associated metadata, e.g. the case number, client, opposing counsels, etc. This keeps all relevant information up to date and always accessible when needed.

In advanced document management systems, law firms can also create their own templates and automate contract workflows for different types of cases and manage a full contract lifecycle from a single place. The users only need to make minor adaptations regarding the specific case and they’re good to go.

Some of the main benefits of document management systems for law firms are:

  • Increased productivity since the documents are easier to find, search, access, and share
  • Improved security and confidentiality by preventing unauthorized access to documents and files 
  • Organizational consistency and continuity when all documents are managed through a common platform and common practices 

9 advanced document management software for law firms

 

To help you find the right software for your team, we’ve put together a list of the 9 best document management software for law firms on the market.

Every software is highly trusted in the industry and the selection covers all types of document management systems for law firms we addressed previously — from legal files document management systems to full contract lifecycle management solutions.

1. Avokaado

Avokaado is an all-in-one contract lifecycle management platform that helps law firms manage, create and collaborate on documents from one single platform at every stage of the document lifecycle — smart drafting, co-editing, negotiating, approving, e-signing, document management, and a tracking dashboard.

Best for end-to-end contract lifecycle management 

Top features:

  • Data-driven document management: find what you really need faster with a 360° view to all contracts, users, and workflows; apply one-time data insertion or draft based on the previous documents, use full text and meta-data search and automatic reminders based on metadata. 
  • Centralised clause and template library: automated templates help eradicate manual labor and copy-paste errors with required fields, advanced formatting, automated cross-references and updates, and bilingual drafting. This helps your team draft compliant and harmonized documents quickly and safely.

👉 Check out free customizable contract templates in the Avokaado Templates Library

  • User and workflow collaboration: stop playing email ping-pong for client collaboration and negotiations — share documents via public link or enable self-serve with white-label webshop. Assign different right levels and user groups for your team and external collaborators to make sure all the documents only end up in the right hands.
  • Versioning and negotiations: Avokaado Word plugin helps lawyers to open all documents conveniently in Word, make necessary changes using track-changes, compare different versions and upload the new version to the relevant workflow. This guarantees that all versions are negotiated and saved in one place until signing on the platform.

What makes it special: Avokaado is a truly flexible system that goes way beyond just automating and drafting standard documents. It’s a full contract lifecycle power tool that offers maximum template customization and includes all possible scenarios, legal specs, options etc., which lets you replace many different contract versions with one master template. 

Pricing: 49€/month/user for up to 15 users, free trial and freemium plans available

Avokaado is your next-generation workspace for contract lifecycle management

2. ContractSafe

ContractSafe is an easy and affordable solution for basic organizing and managing contracts, including routing, search and OCR, as well as good security and permissions.  They don’t offer full contract lifecycle management or automation.

Best for ease of use

Top features: 

  • Secure and scannable repository: keep all your documents safe in one place and quickly find what you’re looking for. Store attachments, track amendments and link related documents. 
  • Intuitive searching and reporting: find contracts in seconds with Google-like keyword searching (even scans). Search for a contract, report, or document by keyword(s), search as broadly or as specifically as you’d like. 
  • Sharing and role assigning: never worry about the wrong person accessing the wrong files. Assign roles and permissions to protect confidentiality, including read-only and no-delete users. 

What makes it special: ContractSafe is designed by and for legal professionals so in terms of document storage and management it’s intuitive and effective, requiring minimal or no training to use. No implementation or configuration means you will be up and running right away. The users also praise the helpful staff and customer support

Pricing: from $299/month for unlimited users

3. HotDocs

HotDocs is a document assembly solution that allows lawyers to increase their efficiency by automating the creation of routine documents. HotDocs turns frequently-used documents, such as contracts and intake forms, into reusable templates. As one of the oldest players on the market, HotDocs is well known and widely used in the legal community. Yet, some users bring out that this has made them somewhat monopolized and stagnant in terms of pricing and connectivity. 

Best for fast document automation

Top features: 

  • Automated document creation: draft several types of documents and letters by just inputting specific case information. Once that has been input, HotDocs keeps those answers stored, so that I can generate more documents pertaining to the same case easier and quicker. You no longer have to draft documents and letters from scratch. 
  • Template version control: construct document templates to make sure all users use the latest, most compliant version of your document. This also helps ensure that all assembled documents comply with internal brand guidelines and protect against legal issues stemming from inaccurate, non-compliant content. 
  • Client collaboration with data-gathering interviews: create dynamic interviews that give users all the relevant questions and guide them as they go. Automate packages of legal documents for your customers, e.g. wills, loan and security documents, construction contracts, employment documents, court documents, etc. Save time and get a 100% accurate and consistent result. 

What makes it special: HotDocs offers a plugin that lets you create templates without leaving Microsoft Word.

Pricing: from $25/user/month with minimum 5 users ($125)

4. Clio

Clio is the leading law practice management software that lets you manage your law firm securely from anywhere. Access and manage your work in one central system – with matters, contacts, billing, and everything you need in one place. 

Best for practice management

Top features: 

  • Storage and searching: save thousands of document, image, audio, and video files in our unlimited storage where files are automatically backed up. Find the desired document quickly by keyword searching within its title, metadata, or text contents. 
  • All-in-one document management: create, upload, open, edit, and save documents in one place. Access your legal documents from anywhere on your mobile phone or laptop at any time. 
  • Advance syncing and filing: view, edit, and save your documents directly from Clio Manage to Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, NetDocuments, and Google Drive. File emails and attachments directly from the source.

What makes it special: Clio’s billable time capturing lets you add a time entry from any document in Clio to immediately capture the time spent preparing and editing documents for clients.

Pricing: from $39/user/month

5. iManage

iManage Work is the leading document and email management application for professionals. It’s a big, powerful and robust DMS that has been around a long time. Smart features such as personalized search, document timelines and intelligent worklists enable professionals to work the way they want to work from any device. iManage is a potentially good fit for big law firms with very sophisticated needs and a large budget. 

Best for robust document management 

Top features: 

  • Document indexing and search: add descriptions, document number, version, author name, client number, matter number, document type, name the application used to create the document, email recipients or authors (and even people who were CCd), and the date the email may have been sent or received to help you find what you need. 
  • Document version management: see when a document was last updated and who made changes to the document. Check out documents that are actively worked on to avoid surprises. Get document change alerts if a document is changed in some way. 
  • Security settings and permissions: set security settings or permissions for each individual user to make sure that data and documents are well protected. They’ll only be available or even seen by someone with the credentials to access it. Bigger law firms can create security settings by a group framework, too.

What makes it special: iManage Work integrates with applications including Office 365, MS Outlook, Gmail and Adobe. You can create, open, and edit documents (and spreadsheets) with Microsoft Office and save it directly into the appropriate project or sub-folder within a project. 

Pricing: contact iManage to obtain current pricing

6. HighQ

HighQ Collaborate uniquely combines advanced document management and file sharing with enterprise social collaboration, personal productivity and project management tools, it allows users to get their work done more efficiently and securely share information with internal and external users in one unified space, from any desktop or mobile device.

Best for portfolio management

Top features: 

  • Document collaboration and permissions: upload, review and organize documents related to a particular project or matter. Assign very granular permissions for shared documents and administrative activities such as workflows.
  • Secure storing and compliance management: keep your valuable data safe and securely exchange sensitive information. Simplify and streamline the compliance process with regulatory tracking.
  • Legal project management: bring all the people, files, knowledge, data, tasks, timelines, and notifications that surround your projects together in one place.

What makes it special: HighQ portfolio management lets you capture, store, and search all information and files related to a wide range of portfolios. If you’re managing a portfolio on behalf of a client, you can allow your client viewing access so they can monitor this information at their convenience.

Pricing: from $18.00/month/user

7. Legito

Legito is a smart document workspace for document automation and contract assembly, smart workflows, approvals, document management and advanced eSigning.

Best for high complexity document automation

Top features: 

  • Document automation and management: automate, gather and re-use valuable data to better manage your overall contract lifecycle.
  • Version control: make sure you use only the latest published version of your automated document templates while admins can still work on new versions. When a user attempts to use a document created from a retired template, the document terms can be automatically updated according to the newest template. See any document’s history, who did what, and when. A full audit history provides transparency, and the analytical data increases efficiency.
  • Workflow automation: create bespoke automated process flows for accurate routing and overall document lifecycle management.

What makes it special: Legito’s Word to Legito conversion lets you pull unstructured text from Word templates and convert it into structured automated templates with an AI-powered conversion tool.

Pricing: from $100/user/month for a single user licence

8. Precisely

Precisely lets you optimize your contract management lifecycle, all the way from initial request to the renewal of contracts. Their contract management solution provides you with all the means for both compliant and resource-efficient contract management.

Best for workflow automation

Top features: 

  • Low effort, high impact document management: register contracts automatically, with accurate metadata, upload contracts to the archive and find them easily with advanced filtering, get notified of contract expiry, deadlines and milestones.
  • Template automation: transform frequently used contracts into automated templates, set rules to enable anyone to create contracts, produce templates that enable contract creation based on smart questionnaires.
  • Centralized collaboration: keep all communication in one place to avoid misunderstandings and work from wherever. Collaborate with your team, negotiate with your counterparties, review, approve, negotiate, and e-sign in one place. Automatically route the right contract to the right person.

What makes it special: Precisely integrates well with other SaaS platforms and offers other great added value to non-legal departments regardless of legal experience, e.g. business development, account management, or HR.

Pricing: from $49/user/month

9. Contractbook

Contractbook is a software company that enables small and medium-sized law firms to manage the entire lifecycle of their contracts in a single, fully automated flow.

Best for client collaboration

Top features: 

  • Central document storage: gain an overview and achieve peace of mind knowing that all your incoming and existing documents are gathered and organized in one secure place. Structure and organize your contracts to leverage their data and improve compliance.
  • Automated templates: save time and reduce errors in your contract creation process with updated templates. Create your contracts directly in our machine-friendly format to leverage the contained data and prepare for a smarter future.
  • Advanced collaboration: collaborate in multiple teams with defined hierarchies to gain a better grip on your legal situation. Invite external guests and negotiate seamlessly with other parties.

What makes it special: Contractbook’s client portal helps collaborate with clients, offer them a more holistic service and develop new scalable business models to increase revenue and secure client loyalty.

Pricing: from $115/month/3 users

What to take away from all this

Picking the right document management software for law firms depends on the core processes and problems the law firm is aiming to solve.

In some cases, a generic document management system can just do the trick. Some law firms might only need support in their document management and time tracking/billing department — in this case, practice management should be their key focus. 

Yet, for most law firms, a document management system with end-to-end contract lifecycle management is the go-to option. Ideally the law firm should need only one tool to handle their legal-specific document work.

We, at Avokaado, work hard to offer a dynamic and adaptable solution to law firms that both covers their high complexity document generation and contracting process management from one place, as well as integrates with the firm’s other tech stack. 

If you’re looking for one and only reliable tool, we strongly encourage you to look at document management systems for law firms that have contract lifecycle management included.

We hope this article helps you find the best tool set for your specific needs. 

👉 Meanwhile, you can try out a modern Avokaado CLM for free for 7 days: automate your first contract templates and build document workflows with ease!

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